HL Deb 16 July 1877 vol 235 cc1297-316

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the prevalence of undetected and unpunished crime in Ireland; and to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether it is their intention to propose any measures for the better protection of life in that country, said, that, in 1870, the noble and learned Lord now on the Woolsack made one of his exhaustive speeches on the state of Ireland, stating that it was "not only sad, but shameful," and calling on the then Government to pass measures for the suppression of crime. He foretold that the Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church just passed, and the coming Land Bill, would not tend to pacify, but disturb the country. Unfortunately, the present state of Ireland proved his foresight, and if he were now in Opposition, he might with perfect truth repeat every word of the speech he then delivered, for he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) regretted to say it would be his duty to show the House that crime was at least as rampant and unpunished now as it was in 1870. Partly owing to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, and partly from the necessities of the case, the then Government brought forward and passed measures which, while they remained in force, caused a marked diminution in crime in Ireland; but unfortunately, when in 1875 they expired, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, misled by the more peaceful state of the country they had brought about, and having no knowledge of the real state of Ireland save what he derived from Radical officials, brought forward a measure in the other House much less effective than the measures which had expired, and allowed it to be so weakened by that Party, who, if they were not friends of crime, were certainly friends of the criminal, that when passed into law it had proved altogether unequal to meet the exigencies of the case. If that were the case, he might be asked, why was not the attention of the country called to it by some leading Member of the Opposition, either in that, or the other House? The reply was simple—namely, that by so doing the late Government would acknowledge how entirely their message of peace had failed, besides that, at present, the public mind was too much engrossed by the war in the East to take much interest in the fact of a few murders more or less occurring in Ireland; and, unfortunately, the same cause influenced the Press to hardly notice the extension of crime in Ireland. Therefore, though the matter was too large and important for him to bring efficiently before their Lordships, yet coming from a part of Ireland where murder threw a dark shade of grief and terror over all classes, he felt sure the House would show him that indulgence which it was wont to do on such occasions. The last official Report of crime in Ireland was for 1875. He prayed the attention of the House and the public to some extracts from Dr. Handcock's summary of that Report. It stated— The amount of serious crime has now diminished for five years in succession; the amount of crime being less in 1875 than in anyone year since 1864, part of the improvement being in agrarian crime. It should be instructive to their Rulers, to whatever Party they belonged, to remember that it was exactly during these years the Peace Preservation Acts of 1870–71 were in force, and that in 1875 they expired. Dr. Handcock went on to state— The favourable result as to agrarian crime up to the end of 1875 has not been borne out in the first seven months of 1876; the agrarian outrages specially reported up to 31st of July being 139 as compared with 82 in the first seven months of 1875— that was, no sooner did the Acts for repression of crime cease, than crime increased 75 per cent. That was, in 1876, there were 239 agrarian crimes; while in 1870, the time when the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack demanded repressive measures, he stated there were 169 offences of the same character. Were not then such measures even more necessary at present? He found again, from the same official Report, that in 1875 there were 35 murders and five attempts to murder, and 176 shootings at and wounding, besides other crimes, making in all 400 crimes against human life. For the 35 murders there were only three persons convicted and executed; so, unless one person committed more than a single murder, there were in this one year 32 additional murderers abroad who had not even been brought to trial, and the convictions which took place were in cases entirely disconnected with crimes encouraged by the secret societies, such crimes having been, committed with entire immunity. He was told by some that crime was confined to particular districts—doubtless there were a larger number of Ribbon crimes from time to time in particular districts—and he doubted not that was done systematically; as if murders were perpetrated all through Ireland at the same time, the country would be put under Martial Law; but he regretted to say the areas in which agrarian crime was committed increased. Formerly the county of Mayo was entirely free from Ribbon crime; now it prevailed there as much as in any part of Ireland, but when he mentioned 35 murders and 400 crimes against human life, the number was enough to show that crime was not localized; as if these crimes were committed in one or two districts, they would become deserts! He was also told that in bringing forward this question he was only wishing to protect the lives and interests of landlords; but the same facts showed that it was not only landlords who suffered, but every class. A landlord being better known, if he was murdered, the murder attracted more attention; but farmers of all classes, who were obliged to be out early and late, both in the fields, and at fairs and markets, were more liable to be attacked. What, therefore, he asked for was, that the people of Ireland should be governed by whatever laws might be necessary to protect life and property, the primary object for which Government existed. He would now call attention to a few cases best exemplifying the prevalence of systematic and unpunished crime. Many of their Lordships were familiar with the case of Mr. Bridge. He would give an outline of it. A Mr. Buckley bought an estate in Tipperary in 1863, and appointed Mr. Bridge his agent. A fresh valuation was made of the different holdings, and the rent of all was increased. Unhappily, in consequence of this, an attempt was made by one of the tenants—believed to be a man named Ryan—on Mr. Bridge's life. That attempt was made on March 23rd, 1875. It was unsuccessful, but Mr. Bridge was wounded, and got compensation at the Limerick Assizes. On March 23rd, 1876, a second attempt was made on the life of Mr. Bridge. He was wounded, and the driver of the car—on which were Mr. Bridge and two policemen—was killed. Some three or more persons fired; one man, taken in the act, was tried and executed; but two others, who, after the attack, exchanged shots with the police, had never been apprehended. Both these attempts were made in open day. Unfortunately, the matter had not ended there, for only a few days back, two men named Cahill, who were in possession of the land from which Ryan had been ejected, were dreadfully beaten, in open day, at the market of Tipperary, so badly that one of their lives was dispaired of: no one attempted to interfere to protect them, though about 70 people were present. There was no room to doubt that this was a persevering and systematic attempt to murder any who were disobedient to the Ribbon laws. Another feature in the case was, that it clearly showed how futile was any attempt to check crime through the action of Land Acts; for, in addition to the compensation for disturbance— probably, not less than 10 years' purchase on the rental—Ryan was offered no less than £200 black-mail, by these Brother Cahills, who took the land he held at a higher rent than he paid for it. The members of these secret societies refused to be bound by any law, save the capricious and bloody decisions of their own body. He stated there was yet another feature in the case at least as unfortunate as any other. And, however unwilling he was to cast a slur on the purity of the highest tribunals in the country, he felt he should be wanting in his duty if he did not call attention to the Charges delivered by three of Her Majesty's Judges, on a demand made to them for permission to allow Mr. Bridge to file a criminal information in this matter. It would occupy far too much of the time of the House were he to go through the whole case; he would, therefore, only read a resumé of it, drawn by a hand not very partial to Irish landlords. Lest it should be said that he was attacking those who, not being present, were unable to defend themselves, he had given Notice to the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a personal and political Friend of these Judges, whom he saw in his place, of his intention to comment on the conduct of these learned Judges. He had called attention to the two attempts on Mr. Bridge's life and the late violent assault on the two Cahills. The Times wrote thus, in a leading article of December 28th, 1876— This unlucky agent, after passing through 'the ordeal by fire,' had to stand the more painful test of savage newspaper criticism. He was denounced as an exterminator, a tyrant, an enemy of the people; he was warned that the attack upon him, for which Crowe had suffered, was only the natural outbreak of a just and holy indignation, and that its repetition could not be prevented by the most ruthless sentences of anti-popular tribunals. Among these threatening criticisms were some of a peculiarly venomous character, published by a leading Dublin and a leading Cork newspaper. Mr. Bridge, the agent and the object of these murderous assaults, applied for a criminal information against the writer of the letters, a person named Casey. A conditional Order was granted, against which Mr. Casey's counsel appealed, and the discussion of the matter in Court has given rise to some of the most eloquent outbursts of political resentment. The application for the discharge of the Order was made to the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin, which, at present, since the death of Chief Justice Whiteside, is composed of three Roman Catholic Judges—Mr. Justice O'Brien, Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, and Mr. Justice Barry, all of them known to be attached to the Liberal Party. The article stated that no fault could be found with the decision arrived at— But the manner in which the case was conducted was, we must say, by no means creditable to the judicial system of the Irish Courts. Mr. Casey had written a letter attacking Mr. Bridge's character as a land agent, which may have been, and, no doubt, was, open to severe criticism, and going so far as to assert that Mr. Bridge was himself the cause of the murder, and, in fact, more guilty than the actual perpetrator of it. Clearly, the primâ facie case for a criminal information existed in these letters, which were couched in most violent and malignant language, and imputed to Mr. Bridge and his employer the most detestable and deliberate policy of extermination.…The libels were defended on the remarkable ground that there was a certain line of conduct on the part of a land agent, within the bounds of practical consideration, which rendered him morally responsible for any crime directed against his own person. The article concluded— The Bar and the Bench have, with a delightful air of unconsciousness, been engaged in discussing a problem which has hitherto been reserved for the consideration of Ribbon lodges, and which is the definition of the point at which landlord oppression makes agrarian crime inevitable, and, as a great many Irishmen will say, justifiable. The law and its interpreters have hitherto been content to assume that murder is always criminal, whether dictated by the wild justice of revenge or not. Nor have apologies for murder been considered excusable, because the apologist might be able to show that the victim was a hard-hearted man. The Freeman's Journal, entirely approv- ing of the Charges of the Judges, made this comment on that of Judge Barry— The most enthusiastic speaker at a Tenant Right meeting could not have denounced in more indignant or glowing language the treatment to which the tenantry on the Buckley estate have been exposed. Whether such language on the Bench was conducive to the maintenance of law and order, or whether, by palliating it encouraged crime, he would leave to the House and to the public to decide. But, it might be said, after all, Judges were but men; and he would mention a few facts which might lead to the belief that their conduct in this case was owing to their being influenced by the reign of terror which prevailed. There were Members of the late Government present in the House that night who must be well aware that one of the ablest of the Irish Judges, who distinguished himself by the courageous and successful manner in which he carried out the law, not only against Fenians and Ribbonmen, but also against the lawlessness of his own clergy at the famous election in Gralway, was for many years, whether in town or country, under the special protection of the police. They must remember the case where, on entering Court, he called the Sheriff to account for limiting the ingress to the Court to favoured persons. The Sheriff, after Court, informed him that had been done because he had special information that it was intended to shoot him in Court that day. They must be aware that for some time nearly every day of his life both the Judge and his wife received threatening letters. Though there was some truth in the proverb, that eels got accustomed to skinning, yet it hardly seemed a pleasant process. The present Government must be aware of at least one Member of their Lordships' House who was under the special protection of the police whenever he went to Ireland, only because he raised his rents moderately. They must be aware of a gentleman of large property in Ireland who, owing to the danger he was in, absented himself from Ireland for some years, intending last year to return, was prevented by receiving information, which was also given to Her Majesty's Government, that an attempt would be made on his life between the railway station and his own house. They must be aware that there were few parts of Ireland in which there were not persons under the special protection of the police. It might not therefore he astonishing if even the Judges of the land succumbed to this reign of lawlessness and terror. He would now call attention to some outrages that had occurred during the last few years in his own neighbourhood— that was, within 20 miles of his residence, on the borders of Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon. In 1875, Mr. Nolan, a land agent, was fired at and severely wounded. He swore distinctly to the man who fired at him; but the jury acquitted him. In 1876, Mr. Acton was fired at at 11 o'clock in the day in the high road— there were several persons present, but no one interfered. The supposed cause was that he refused to let a grass field to some tenants who wished for it. This field had never been in their possession. No one was tried for this offence. There had been six murders of small farmers within two years adjoining his residence. In the Spring of the present year part of the Barony of Costello was paraded at night by armed men, who fired, into some houses, wounded Mr. Costello's steward, and administered unlawful oaths. About three months back, about 2 in the morning, many shots were fired into the house of a Roman Catholic gentleman named Rush, who was a constant resident, giving employment to a large number of persons, and in every way a popular man. Many shots went into the bedclothes and gown of Miss Rush, his sister, who fortunately was not in bed; more shots were again fired close to her head when she was sitting in a room adjoining. The lady was so frightened she could not be induced to swear any information. In consequence of this outrage extra police were sent down and charged on the district. At a private meeting called to advise the Lord Lieutenant as to what lands should be charged, only one magistrate attended beside the resident magistrate. All magistrates in the neighbourhood had threatening letters. The parish priest, being a friend of Mr. Rush's, called on him after the outrage, for which reason the people would not pay his dues, consequently, he got up a subscription to pay the cost of the police, and Mr. Rush was advised to pay the cost himself. The Government soon after, contrary to the advice of the magistrates, relieved the district from further charge for the police, though a man had been arrested in putting a red mark, the sign of blood, on Mr. Rush's door. Near Myloch, in County Gralway, 31 slugs were fired into the body of a gentleman named Barrett in open day on the public road. No one was arrested—it was thought he was mistaken for his father, who had some difference with his tenants. Within 10 days Mr. Young was shot dead in the County of Roscommon, a few miles from the site of the previous outrage. He was not 100 yards from his own door. This occurred on the market day of Castlerea, within half a mile of that town. The road was not 200 yards from Mr. Young's house—there was a path by which some neighbours usually went to market close to the spot at which he was murdered; no one passed that way on that day. A report of the murder was current at Claremorris, 20 miles off, the day before it took place. At a public meeting at Castlerea after the murder the parish priest said—"Mr. Young was a good landlord, a just and impartial magistrate, a gentleman most charitable to the poor." The cause of his murder was supposed to be on account of his having committed a man of bad character to prison for two months. A person gave information to the police after the murder that he had seen an ill-looking stranger about — his house was set on fire in four places the night after, and an office burnt down. The police believed they had had the man in custody who committed these outrages; but no evidence could be obtained against him, or any other person. If the Westmeath Act were in force, he could for a time at least be prevented from from committing further crime. In 1870, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, in these crimes the disposition to crime and outrage cropped out; but in addition to that there was a substratum of dissatisfaction and prone-ness to outrage of which statistics could give no idea. Crime had unfortunately become so habitual that it had a facetious side. To wit—there was a young man in his neighbourhood well known to have committed a murder. His friends always called him by the name of the man he murdered. Let him tell them an old woman's story:—A tenant came to a friend of his to complain of some small differences between him and his herd. His friend told him he was wrong. Next day an old dame of 70 odd, the mother of the tenant, came to see his friend; he asked her what she wanted, "Aye, sure, your honour, I'm come to give up the land." His friend said— "That's the last thing you'll do; what do you want?" The old woman, with a sly look, replied—"Sure, your honour, had we not better give up the land? Your honour's taken a prejudice against my boy; and in these bad times if anything happened to your honour, they might say he did it." This was a kind, thoughtful old lady; but, with your neighbour just assassinated the joke was a bad one. He was sorry where crime was so common jokes were not confined to one class. He knew a gentleman who went to visit a prisoner in a gaol, awaiting his trial for having fired at a land agent who was unpopular among all classes. He said —"Aye, Pat, you're a bother headed fellow!" "Why does your honour say that?" "Aye," replied the visitor, "why the Divil didn't you shoot straight?" He supposed that the reply to his statistics would be—Oh! but the Judges all through Ireland were congratulating the Grand Juries on the lightness of the calendar. But what did that do but confirm the statistics he had laid before the House. It showed, not that crime did not exist, but that, whereas formerly the difficulty was to get a jury to convict on the clearest evidence, now so much more was the criminal feared or favoured that no one would come forward to give evidence against him. And even now, what said Judge Lawson, of Tipperary— A shocking case occurred in their streets on the 29th of May last, when a man named John Dwyer was assaulted and so injured that he died of his wounds in three weeks after. He received his injuries in the public streets on a fair-day between three and four o'clock, and so confident were the assailants of the concurrence of the people that they made no attempt at concealment. It seemed as if all the persons present had lost all instincts of humanity, with the exception of one woman, who came to the aid of the wounded man, for which she was threatened. She thought to take the injured man into a house, but every door was shut against her. A similar case happened in the town of Tipperary where two brothers, who were pursuing their business, were so badly beaten in the open day that the life of one of them was despaired of. The last point to which he would call the attention of the House was the unbridled licence of what was called the National Press of Ireland. Openly and unchecked, it incited to murder and rebellion; by misrepresentation it disseminated hatred between class and class, and inculcated deadly hostility to English connection, as well as to all law or order. He did not generally read these journals, but in looking for comments on Bridge's case, he came upon the Christmas supplement of The Nation—a paper having a very large circulation among the middle and lower orders in Ireland. It was full of the poems of a certain deceased Fenian named Richard Dalton Williams—a verse or two would show their tone. In one called "A Prophecy," referring to England and her Government, were these lines— Now thou art a sink of evil, a serpent's nest, a tiger's den, An iron-crowned and armed devil, having power to torture men; Aged tyrant, crime o'erladen, Moloch gorged with blood and tears Of martyred brave and ruined maiden—murdress of a thousand years! Then there were four war songs—"The Munster War Song," "The Leinster War Song," "The Western War Song," and "The Irish War Song," all in the same spirit, inciting to deadliest enmity to England. One entitled "The Extermination" ran thus— When tyranny's pampered and purple-clad minions, Drive forth the lone widow and orphan to die, Shall no angel of vengeance unfurl his red pinions, And grasping sharp thunderbolts rush from on high! These were the songs sung through every village in Ireland. It was to enable the people to read this literature that millions were yearly spent on education; nor was the smallest endeavour made by Government to stay its propagation. Was it astonishing that the Irish people believed crime to be virtuous? He had shown that in one year there were 35 murders, and above 400 crimes against human life undetected and unpunished. He had shown that these outrages formerly perpetrated at night, now were often committed in open day, without any attempt at concealment, in public places, often before many persons, none of whom attempted to interfere with the aggressor, or would give evidence against him. He feared this arose from the Ribbon and Fenian Societies being united and having a very complete and efficient organization. The perfection of the Fenian organization was shown at the O'Connell Centenary. There were 200,000 strangers in Dublin that day. The Fenians disturbed the municipal arrangements, but not a window was broken, nor a man arrested, even for drunkenness. He had shown that formerly, the worst crimes were confined to a few localities—not so now; their operation was more extended. The district in which he lived was as peaceable as any part of the world, now it was in the sad state he had shown. In fact, these societies, formed only for sedition and murder, ruled in Ireland. The Executive was paralyzed. No one but those who lived in districts where these societies were actively carrying out their work could realize the state of things that existed. It was always believed that the two Peace Preservation Bills of the late Government were passed owing to the Lord Lieutenant (Lord Spencer) happening to be in a locality when two murders were committed. In these districts, disquietude and apprehension —a shadow of an untimely and cruel death—threw a gloom over the whole community. It was not for him to suggest remedies, but the longer they were delayed the more violent they must be. The Westmeath Act, extended to all Ireland, would be useful to check crime, and would only be put in force in those districts where crime was rampant. Her Majesty's Government had a large majority in both Houses of Parliament, and could readily obtain the sanction of Parliament for any measures they might deem necessary for the suppression of crime. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, in 1870— I maintain that the first duty of Government, the first for which it exists, and what constitutes the justification for its being a Government, is that it shall suppress outrage and enforce security for life and property. That that duty was not fulfilled, the statement he had laid before their Lordships clearly demonstrated; and he asked Her Majesty's Government what measures they proposed towards that end? Great was their responsibility if they refused protection to the loyal and peace-abiding portion of the Irish people.


said, he had been anxious not to show any want of courtesy to the noble Lord, and, therefore, understanding that he was about to put this Question this evening, he had come down to the House, and had listened with great attention and patience to all he had to say on the subject. In the course of the noble Lord's speech he could not help being reminded of a remark made by an eminent writer, who, speaking of another Member of their Lordships' House, said he had a wonderful habit of vilifying his own country. Now, the noble Lord had brought an indictment against his country which was certainly of a sufficiently serious description to call for a reply on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He thought he should be able, in the few remarks he had to make on the present state and condition of Ireland, to calm the fears of his noble Friend, and to re-assure him and their Lordships on the present condition of the country. He wished, in the first place, to remark upon the line which his noble Friend had adopted in his allusions to the case of "The Queen v. Casey." It would have been objectionable if his noble Friend had alluded in terms to the remarks which fell in the course of that trial from the learned Judges on the bench—for he held it to be of the highest importance that the freedom and independence of Her Majesty's Judges should be rigidly maintained; but his noble Friend had taken a course which was even more objectionable, for he had quoted newspaper comments upon the opinions expressed by the Judges, without enabling their Lordships to judge whether those comments were justifiable in point of fact, and without enabling anyone to reply to them. Coming to the general question, he (the Duke of Marlborough) could not understand whence the noble Lord obtained the statistics which he had quoted in support of his case. So far as he understood his noble Friend's argument, it was to the effect that the relaxation of repressive measures which existed prior to the year 1875 had tended to an increased commission of the crimes against which those Acts of Parliament were directed. He could not admit the deduction of his noble Friend, because the only relaxation effected by the Act of 1875 was the omission of that part of the Peace Preservation Act which enabled the Lord Lieutenant to specially proclaim certain districts. It could not he denied that there were some particular parts of the country which gave cause for anxiety at the present time; but it was not fair to infer from that fact that the whole of Ireland was in a disturbed condition, requiring serious attention, and even the interference of Parliament. In 1870 Ireland was in a very painful condition. He found, from the statistics at his disposal, that the number of outrages reported to the police in a series of years were as follows:—In 1870, 4,321; in 1871, 2,897; in 1872, 3,238; in 1873, 2,275; in 1874, 2,096; in 1875, 2,001; and in 1876, 2,048. These figures showed a progressive decrease—owing, no doubt, to the legislation that had taken place of late years—and in the face of them he could see no reason for reverting to the extremely repressive laws which existed prior to the Act of 1875. He believed, from the facts he had stated, that the relaxation that had taken place in the repressive measures that had been passed for Ireland had been wisely conceived and carried out. The figures with regard to agrarian crimes between 1870 and 1876 were as follows:—In 1870, 767; in 1871, 1,329; in 1872, 373; in 1873, 256; in 1874, 213; in 1875, 136; and in 1876, 212. These last figures showed an increase in the number of crimes; but, on examining the details, he found that the crimes were less serious in their character than those committed in the previous years. The number of agrarian murders were: —In 1870, 5; in 1871, 5; in 1872, 4; in 1873, 5; in 1874, 5; in 1875, 9; and in 1876, 4; and up to the 12th of this month in this year there had only been 2. Another remarkable comparison was that relating to threatening letters written on subjects having reference to the land. The following were the figures showing the number of these documents: In 1870 there were 624 cases of threatening letters relating to land; in 1871 there were 173; in 1872, 125; in 1873, 112; in 1874, 78; in 1875, 54; and in 1876 the number had increased to 86. His noble Friend (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had drawn a gloomy picture of the condition of his own part of the country, and it could not denied that the state of parts of Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon was such as to give some grounds for uneasiness. But, comparing the present condition of that part of the country with its condition in 1870, he thought the comparison was not altogether unfavourable. He had recently read the charge of Baron Deasy to the Grand Jury at the opening of the Assizes for the county of Mayo in the year 1870. The learned Judge there commented on the state of the county. He mentioned that there were 30 cases of writing threatening letters relating to land, 189 cases of agrarian outrage since the previous Assizes, and 35 cases of administering unlawful oaths—a crime of a very dangerous character. Now, turning from that statement to the reports which had been presented last year he found the cases of outrage had fallen from 189 to 129; and that taking the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim, and Sligo, there were only 28 cases of the more serious class of outrages—there being in Galway only one case of murder, in Mayo one case of firing at the person, in Roscommon one case of manslaughter, and in Sligo one case of murder, there being absolutely no case of administering unlawful oaths, upon which offence the learned Judge to whom he had just referred had spoken very strongly at Castlebar, while the cases of sending threatening letters had dwindled down to 11. He did not think he need trouble the House with any further statistics. He had already said that the crimes to which his noble Friend had alluded could not be passed over without serious consideration—they were undoubtedly of a very painful character; and it could not be denied that at various times and in various parts of Ireland there were found to be ebullitions of crime. The condition of Ireland was not, however, he maintained to be judged by isolated cases. That condition was, on the whole, progressive and satisfactory. The legislation to which his noble Friend referred had not yet been condemned, and could not fairly be said to have borne any evil fruit. The law which was now in existence with the view to protecting life and property in Ireland was the Peace Preservation Act of 1875, by which the Lord Lieutenant was enabled to proclaim a county; and there were two great provisions of that Act which were of the utmost importance for the prevention of crime—those by which the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to send a special force into a county, and to levy the costs on the inhabitants of the district; and he had before him a Report of an Inspector with respect to the district to which his noble Friend had referred in his own county, which clearly showed how salutary was the operation of the latter provision especially. He hoped, therefore, his noble Friend would allow his fears to be calmed. He did not for a moment mean to treat lightly any of the cases to which he had referred. On the contrary, he looked upon the statements of the noble Lord as demanding the serious attention of the Government. That serious consideration he had given to them in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and they were of opinion that beneficial legislation had already done much, and that the gradual relaxing of the penal laws now in force was a process which need not be discontinued. Their Lordships had no cause for distrust—at all events, he hoped never during his life to have to advise Her Majesty's Government to re-enact laws which so long as they existed must cast a slur upon the country.


strongly protested against the attacks which had been made by the noble Lord who brought forward the subject (Lord Oranmore and Browne) on persons occupying high judicial office in Ireland, upon totally inadequate grounds, and at a time when proceedings were actually pending before the Courts of Justice with reference to the facts out of which the cases to which the noble Lord called attention had arisen. He himself knew something officially and judicially about the state of Ireland for the last 20 years, and, unless he was labouring under a great delusion, he thought he could show that the condition of the country at the present moment was exceptional—not only in comparison with its own sad antecedents, but such as to place it in a very forward position in the matter of freedom from crime among the nations of the world. The only evidence to which the noble Lord had referred which was really worthy of the attention of the House was that afforded by the judicial statistics; but these statistics showed that in fact there had been a great diminution in the number of agrarian outrages in Ireland. Their Lordships had, perhaps, been shocked to hear of the number of crimes against human life; but it must be remembered that the number given in- cluded, not only murder and manslaughter, but such offences as endangering the safety of railway passengers, unlawfully abandoning children under two years of age, &c. The case which had been stated by the noble Lord, not against a particular county, but against Ireland in general, rested on the mere gossip of the country, on perfectly unsustained assertion, and on imperfect extracts from the judicial statistics. It was of great importance that such statements should receive an authoritative contradiction. The noble Duke who had addressed the House (the Duke of Marlborough) said in February last, at a banquet in Dublin— No capital will ever be expended in a country unless there be due and adequate protection afforded to that capital, so that those who want remunerative investments—investments of capital—whether in land or money, will be secured in the enjoyment of the productiveness of that capital. Now, I find that the most satisfactory feature in the present state of the country is the diminution of crime generally. If Ireland could ever become a law-abiding people, it would be a country unrivalled among the countries of Europe in prosperity and importance. In that sentiment he (Lord O'Hagan) concurred; and he thought it would be an in-jury at once to the Irish people and to the interests of the Empire if reports were spread and credited that Ireland was an unsafe place to live in. To show what was the actual state of things he would refer to the statements made by the Judges at the Assizes held during the last fortnight. It ought to be borne in mind, in considering that evidence, that those Judges received reports of the cases in which the offenders had escaped detection; and as the Irish Constabulary were peculiarly well-informed, it might be assumed that they were aware of every considerable crime. The charges of all the Judges demonstrated that the absence of crime was positively marvellous, and that the condition of things since the previous Assizes had been most orderly and satisfactory. The Recorder of the City of Dublin spoke of the "small number of cases for trial since last session," and added— This circumstance, taken in connection with the satisfactory criminal statistics as exhibited by the reports prepared by the various Crown Solicitors for the going Judges of Assize, was one calling for universal approbation as evidence of the happy change in national affairs. In the county of Cork there was at the Macroom Quarter Sessions, in the West Riding, no criminal business; while at the Cork Quarter Sessions, in the East Riding, the chairman congratulated the grand juryon the "absence of crime since last sessions"—no offence of any kind having been reported to the Constabulary from April 29 to June 21. In the County Clare, Mr. Justice Keogh, addressing the grand jury, said— Your duty on this side of the Court is very light. There are in all but six bills to go before you, none of which calls for any observation whatever. In the County of Limerick the Judge said— The state of your county, with two exceptions, is a matter for congratulation. I believe the number of bills to be sent before you will not exceed seven or eight. In the City of Limerick there were only two bills—one for concealing the birth of a child, and the other for passing counterfeit coin. At the Westmeath Assizes, Baron Deasy congratulated the Grand Jury on the "tranquil state" of the county. In King's County Mr. Justice O'Brien spoke of the "peaceable state" of that district. Serjeant Armstrong, who presided at the Assizes in County Kilkenny, said "there was every reason to be satisfied with the orderly condition" of the county. In the City of Kilkenny, Mr. Justice Law-son, addressing the Grand Jury, said "he was happy to say the calendar showed an almost total immunity from crime, there being only one case to go before them—namely, an assault on a warder which had been committed a few days previously." In the county of Longford, in the same way, the Chief Baron told the Grand Jury that their duties would be extremely light, there being only three bills of a simple character to go before them. He complained, however—and it was the only complaint which any of the Judges appeared to have made—that in 15 cases which had been reported by the Constabulary, no person had been made amenable. In Fermanagh, the Chief Baron congratulated the Grand Jury that there was no criminal case to go before them. In Leitrim, the Chief Justice of Ireland observed to the Grand Jury, that there was but one bill to go before them, and it was not likely to engage their attention long. In Sligo, only a few days ago, Baron Dowse congratulated the Grand Jury on the peaceful state of the county, as there were only six indictments to go before them, representing four cases, and remarked that from the returns published there appeared to be "no undiscovered crime." The learned Judge also said he was assured by the County Inspector that there had been a remarkable decrease in all classes of crimes, especially assaults. In a word, the charges of all the Judges who had addressed Grand Juries since the Assizes began testified not only to the absence of crime, but to the quiet and satisfactory condition of the country, and it appeared to him that the noble Lord (Lord Oran-more and Browne) would have done well to have ascertained those facts before he ventured to make the particular eases which had occurred in his own neighbourhood the ground of a libel upon the whole of Ireland. Within the memory of man that country had never been in so peaceful a state as at the present moment. He (Lord O'Hagan) was sure their Lordships would agree that the noble Lord's impeachment had entirely failed in fact, and. that it had been conclusively answered by the highest authorities.


remarked that the speeches of the Lord Lieutenant and of his noble and learned Friend who had just sat down had corrected in a very important and satisfactory manner the statements of the noble Lord who had introduced the subject. But for those two speeches the House might have been under the impression that Ireland was, so far as crime was concerned, in a very bad condition indeed:—instead of which it appeared that the condition of the country on the whole was peaceful and satisfactory, and that there was less agrarian crime than there had been at almost any other period. When it was considered that in 1870 or 1871 the number of agrarian crimes committed in Ireland amounted to 1,329, and that in 1876 there were only 212, it would be seen that there was no cause for such alarm as the noble Lord seemed to feel. The cases which had recently occurred no doubt called for serious notice; but they were only, so to speak, survivals of the state of crime which had existed in Ireland for generations. In introducing in "another place" the Peace Preservation Bill of 1870, he had the satisfaction of stating that bad as thing were at that moment, they compared favourably with earlier years; that while in the year 1846 the number of cases of all kinds reported by the Constabulary was 20,000, in 1870 the return had fallen to 4,000, and the gradual diminution thus indicated had continued down to the present time. In these circumstances, which were so well calculated to inspire them with hope as to the future, it seemed to him that the noble Lord had altogether failed to prove the necessity of the very serious and formidable step which he asked the Government to take. Repressive legislation, although sometimes necessary, could not but be regarded as an evil; it created a bad feeling among the ignorant and excitable classes, and was used by a certain set of politicians in Ireland to keep alive and intensify the old traditions of hostility to England. A return to such a state of things was not therefore to be lightly proposed; and if ever the Government should be compelled to take that step, they might expect to see a postponement of the day when the Irish people as a whole would be animated with respect for the law and goodwill towards this country.


, in reply, said, he contended that neither the noble Duke, nor the other noble Lords had attempted to reply to his statistics of crime; indeed, as they were taken from the last statistics published by the authority of the Government, it was impossible to do so. The noble and learned Lord had quoted from the Charges of the Judges in Ireland at last Assizes, but had failed to notice the charge of Judge Lawson which he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had read; and those the noble and learned Lord had read, with one exception, adverted only to the lightness of the calendar, which, as he had foreseen, proved only that no evidence could be obtained to bring to trial those who had committed crime, while the statistics evidenced beyond doubt that crime was prevalent. He perfectly agreed with the quotation made by the noble and learned Lord (Lord O'Hagan) from a speech delivered in Dublin by the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough), that prosperity would come to Ireland if ever it became a law-abiding country; but he held that all evidence went to show that Irishmen must be made to fear the law before they would obey it. He must have a far greater interest in capital coming into Ireland, as well as in the existence of order, than any of the noble Lords who had spoken, because he was so unpatriotic as to wish to sell his property, and in the meantime he resided there. He regretted exceedingly that Her Majesty's Government so little appreciated the dangerous state of Ireland as to deem that crime could be suppressed without demanding further powers from Parliament.

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